Welcome back to our second NFL Thursday miniseries, as we analyze the 2016 season, which means we have another “vacated” Super Bowl MVP analysis to do, thanks to the cheating New England Patriots. Remember, we’re looking here at awarded Super Bowl MVPs (19-for-50 so far) and Rookies of the Year (33-for-59). The prior season was one of the somewhat rare ones where the voters at the time were aligned with our hindsight-historian viewpoints. Shocking, we know … read on and enjoy today’s column!

Super Bowl LI MVP: Tom Brady, QB, New England (original); Trey Flowers, DE, New England (revised, vacated)

The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in overtime, without the Atlanta Falcons ever touching the ball in the extra session. We wrote about this then, in one of our first columns ever—almost six years ago! The 34-28 final score doesn’t reflect the fact the Falcons had a 25-point lead midway through the third quarter and squandered it through poor coaching and playcalling. Either way, the mediots voted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady the game’s MVP—despite his huge interception which led to the deficit.

You don’t get to dig your own hole, climb out of it, and get praised for it. Not in our corner of the sports world … besides, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan played a better game, posting a 144.1 QB rating for the day—compared to Brady’s mere 95.2 QB rating. Plus, Brady is a cheater, individually, as we know, so he’s out. Who gets our hardware? New England running back James White had a stellar day, scoring three times and compiling 139 scrimmage yards. What about the defense? We have three candidates there.

Atlanta defensive tackle Grady Jarrett had three sacks, three TFLs, and 5 tackles overall—not to mention 4 hits on Brady. That’s an impactful day. Falcons cornerback Robert Alford had the big pick six to make it 21-0 in the second quarter, in addition to 11 tackles, 3 PDs, and a fumble recovery. Finally, Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers posted 6 tackles, 5 QB hits, 2.5 sacks, and 2 TFLs. Considering the New England defense clamped down in the final 22 minutes of regulation, he’s as good a candidate as any.

The BS format for NFL overtime cost Ryan a chance to win the game himself, and that’s a coin flip. His numbers—17 for 23 and 284 yards with two touchdowns—are outstanding, but he did fumble once, too, so he’s done. The Atlanta defensive guys didn’t do enough to win the game in regulation or overtime, so they’re out, too. This comes down to White or Flowers for us: The comeback win would not have been possible without either player, so who do we pick (before we vacate the nod)?

We’re going with Flowers, and here’s why: White didn’t explode for big yardage, really. He gained just 29 yards on the ground, and his 110 yards receiving came on 14 catches. The Falcons were playing silly prevent defenses, and that means they were willing to give up small chunks of yardage readily to avoid big plays. So, the Pats nickeled and dimed them to defeat, which is so often the case. None of White’s TDs gained more than 5 yards, individually, so he was just in the right place at the right time.

Meanwhile, the New England defense held the Falcons to just 23:27 of ball possession (with some help from the coin toss, of course), which was key for the comeback. We’re going with Flowers on this one, as the Pats defense only gave up 21 points and 344 yards to the high-flying Atlanta offense, and without the defensive effort in the second half, the New England comeback never happens. That’s our take. Debate us on it … we dare you.

2016 NFL ROTY: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas & Joey Bosa, DE, San Diego (original); Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City (revised)

The San Diego Chargers finished with just 5 wins during their final season in Silicon Beach. So, our leading candidate here is Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, who helped his team improve 9 victories from the year before, which was enough to claim the NFC East Division title and the top seed in the conference playoffs. He threw for 3,667 yards, 23 TDs, and just 4 INTs, to post a 104.9 QB rating. Prescott also added 282 rushing yards and 6 more TDs on the ground. It was an impressive rookie campaign.

Any other real candidates? Oh yes, his backfield pal, RB Ezekiel Elliott: 1,994 scrimmage yards and 16 TDs. The two of them basically cancel each other out, as we’re not going to decide between them in terms of which one made the world go ’round (although we’d say in this case it’s Elliott who is the top dog). Either way, we need to find someone to legitimately give this award to, so this trophy sitch comes down to two wide receivers who helped their respective teams reach the postseason.

Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill (860 scrimmage yards, 9 TDs) and New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard (714 scrimmage yards, 8 TDs) both had impacts for playoff teams. Neither stat line jumps off the page; however, we have to consider Hill’s 976 return yards and 3 TD returns, too, and then we really see what he did as a rookie. The Chiefs only improved 1 win from the season before, but that’s immaterial, really, as Shepard’s season pales now in comparison. Hill is an easy choice for ROTY here.